2020 Environmental Real Estate Issues

A wind energy company pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). According to the news release from the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the company “acknowledged that at least 150 bald and golden eagles have died in total since 2012, across 50 of its 154 wind energy facilities. 136 of those deaths have been affirmatively determined to be attributable to the eagle being struck by a wind turbine blade.”

Multi-Million Dollar Plea Agreement
DOJ alleged the company “chose to construct and operate facilities it knew would take eagles, and in fact took eagles, without any permits authorizing that take.”

Under the plea agreement, the company agreed to plead guilty to three counts of violating the MBTA; pay a fine in excess of $1.8 million; make restitution payments in excess of $6.2 million; implement measures to minimize eagle deaths (estimated to cost up to $27 million); apply for permits at 54 of its facilities; pay $29,623 for every future death or injury to an eagle; and serve a five-year probation.

Company Disagrees with Enforcement Policy
The company issued a news release with a far different tone. The company said it disagrees “with the government’s underlying enforcement policy…” and that “the federal government, at odds with many States and a number of federal court decisions, has sought to criminalize unavoidable accidents related to collisions of birds into wind turbines.…” The company characterized the plea agreement as “the most expedient solution” and that the plea “is not expected to have a material impact on the business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects” of the company.

To see DOJ’s news release https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/esi-energy-llc-wholly-owned-subsidiary-nextera-energy-resources-llc-sentenced-after-pleading

To see the company’s news release https://newsroom.nexteraenergy.com/2022-04-05-Statement-by-NextEra-Energy-Resources-President-and-CEO-and-NextEra-Energy-Partners-President-Rebecca-Kujawa-on-agreement-between-the-U-S-Department-of-Justice-and-ESI-Energy